The process consists of five main steps:
· Growing the catmint
· Harvesting the catmint and transporting it to the distillation plant
· Extracting the oil
· Hydrogenating the oil
· Processing of the waste biomass
Growing the Catmint
Seeds will be planted in seedbeds that are fertilized and irrigated and carefully maintained for a period of up to two months. The germinated seedlings will be thinned out in the nursery and then transplanted to the plantation fields when at sufficient size.
The land will be cleared, ploughed and hoed. A hole will be dug, fertiliser added and the plant transplanted. Up to 70,000 plants will be planted per hectare.
The field will be hand-weeded in the first year (after which time the plant growth is sufficient to suppress significant weed growth). Fertiliser will be applied, and the plants irrigated if necessary.
Harvesting / transporting the catmint to the distillation plant
Harvesting will occur shortly after flowering commences and will be conducted in a tight window. The mint is then field-dried for 12-24 hours before being loaded for transportation to the oil extraction unit.
Extracting the oil
The biomass will be received at the oil extraction unit, weighed and then steam stripped. The oil and water mixture will be condensed and the spent biomass removed for drying and processing.
A series of processes will then be employed to separate the oil from the water. These steps will help Essentica recover up to 90% of the oil from the water, significantly greater than the 60% recovery which will be achieved by simple distillation plants.
Hydrogenating the oil
The product is next converted by a process called hydrogenation (the same process by which vegetable oil is converted into margarine) into refined hydrogenated catmint oil. This is a very stable oil, with a shelf life of years rather than months.
The product, refined catmint oil (RCO), can now be transported for delivery to the primary customer (the manufacturer of insect repellent).
Processing of the waste biomass
The biomass is wet after distillation. It gets dried and then enters a standard pelleting facility where it gets further chopped and compressed to produce energy pellets.
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